Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

Many of us in our `middle ages` are dealing with aging parents in various stages of decline.  Roz Chast, the writer and New Yorker cartoonist, uses the graphic novel format to document her journey through this challenging time in her memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

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From first noticing that things seem to be `falling apart`, to realizing that she must take control of the uncontrollable, and then on through moving her parents into care, and experiencing their passing, Chast weaves her story with humour, grace, and brutal honesty.

The most important messages I took from this endearing memoir are that:

  • we are not alone,
  • having a sense of humour is a survival skill, and,
  • in the midst of complicated family relationships and challenging situations there is still, always, love.

(Submitted by KS).

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Missing Nimâmâ by Melanie Florence

Image result for Missing NimâmâMissing Nimâmâ by Melanie Florence, winner of the 2016 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, is a lovely picture book for anyone’s collection. However, it is especially relevant for teachers looking for First Nations materials for the new BC Ministry of Education requirements, or for anyone who has read the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and wants to dig deeper into the stories of Canada’s First Nations. It introduces the topic of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in a format that is accessible to young children.

The story of a young girl growing up is told in the voices of the girl and her missing mother. The lovely, wistful illustrations reflect the emotions of the daughter who is missing her mother, and the mother who can no longer raise her daughter.  The sweet and touching relationship between the girl and the grandmother who raises her prevents the story from becoming too overwhelmingly sad. An interesting addition to the text is a Cree glossary of words which are both included in the text and hidden in the illustrations. More information and statistics on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada are included at the end of the book for those who want to go a bit deeper. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about Canada’s relationship to its indigenous people. (Submitted by Rebecca).

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Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Reading books set in Montreal always fill me with nostalgia, doubly so for the deep sensory memories evoked by the fact the sisters of this novel grow up over their father’s bagel shop in Mile End. Beena and Sadhana are closely linked together by tragedy as well as family bonds. In the wake of her sister’s untimely death, Beena must grapple with their past. Thoroughly engaging, and not just because of the thought of bagels. A Canada Reads 2016 pick. (Submitted by Meghan W).

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Reeva: A Mother’s Story by June Steenkamp

In 2012, during the London Olympics, the Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius inspired the world by becoming the first para-athlete to compete in both Paralympic and Olympic Games as a sprinter. Several months later he made the news headlines again, this time for fatally shooting his model girlfriend of three months, Reeva Steemkamp, in the middle of the night in his posh Pretoria villa.

Reeva’s mother, June Steenkamp, wrote this fascinating memoir describing the long months after she received the phone call that her beautiful, youngest daughter had been killed. In this painfully honest and unflinching account of Reeva’s life, she talks about Reeva’s wonderful childhood and what really went on in her mind as she sat in the packed Pretoria court room day after day and how she is coping in the aftermath of the verdict. Reeva is an amazing and very well written true insider’s account of this tragic story. (Submitted by Monika).

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A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the aftermath of tragedy by Sue Klebold

Sue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters at Columbine High School in 1999 who killed 13 people before ending their own lives, a tragedy that saddened and galvanized the nation. She has spent the last 15 years excavating every detail of her family life, and trying to understand the crucial intersection between mental health problems and violence. Instead of becoming paralyzed by her grief and remorse, she has become a passionate and effective agent working tirelessly to advance mental health awareness and intervention.” ~ Penguin Random House

Whew, I’m glad I’ve finished this book, though it has stayed with me for days, just as the Columbine tragedy did. Sue Klebold is a very brave woman who has salvaged what could have been a wasted life spent in despair and hopelessness. She has spent the years since the horror of April 1999 trying to deal with PTSD, while struggling through life with her remaining son and husband. She has devoted herself to understanding and promoting the necessity for researching brain health, and, without excusing him, tried to understand what happened to her son. (Submitted by SB).

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Delicacy by David Foekinos

Delicacy, by David Foenkinos, is one of the loveliest books I have read. It is the story of a woman finding love after the death of her first husband, who she thought was the one love of her life. The characters are brilliant, and the story, very engaging. Throughout the book, the reader keeps being called back to the title, because so much of the story is subtle and gentle. Natalie, the story’s lead character, is very fragile in her mourning. The way Markus approaches Natalie, and the relationship that develops, is a tale of astounding delicacy that infuses every word and every page of the book.

As an additional point of interest, author David Foenkinos, himself, made a movie out of his novel. Directed by David and his brother, Stephane, the film La delicatesse is as wonderful as the book. You can find the book, the eBook and the movie (with Audrey Tautou and Francois Damiens) in Surrey Libraries. (Submitted by Eva).

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The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

In The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter, we meet Jane Standen, an archivist for a small London museum who is haunted by her past. When she was 15 years old, she lost sight of the 5-year-old girl who she was babysitting for only a few minutes during an adventure in the forest, and the young girl was never seen again. Now, she’s researching the similar disappearance of a woman from a mental asylum 125 years ago as part of her archival work. Hunter weaves past and present in this story of loss. I’d never read anything quite like this book–it was nostalgic and grief-stricken, but hopeful and poetic. It was historical fiction, suspense, and a ghost story all wrapped up in one. A book to be slowly devoured over a cup of tea. (Submitted by Meghan).

Aislinn’s book has been selected for KPU Reads. Meet Aislinn in person at Semiahmoo Library on Thursday, March 10 at 7pm. Call 604-592-6908 to save your spot.

Join Aislinn for a writing workshop, “Creating a Real World: 10 Tips for Writing Great Fiction,” at Write Here, Read Now on Sat, April 12 at City Centre Library from 10:15-11:45am. Call 604-598-7426 to save your spot.

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